Stories about angels and ghosts have been a part of my life ever since I could remember. However, recently I am starting to notice a particular trend in literature where ghosts are the pivotal characters. Last year I read Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin in which a young girl gets hit by a taxi and is sent to the afterlife in Elsewhere, where she discovers that she will age backwards and then be reborn as a different child. My love for Zevin’s account of the afterlife led me to believe that I might enjoy Laurie Notaro’s Spooky Little Girl.
Spooky Little Girl begins when the protagonist, Lucy Fisher, returns home from a Hawaiian vacation to one of the worst final days of her life. Not only has her fiancée neglected to pick her up from the airport but when she finally pulled up to her home in a cab, she finds all her belongings in produce crates and her fiancée inexplicably absent. If that weren’t enough to deal with, the day before she departed for Hawaii, Lucy forgot to make the daily deposit at the bank. A deposit which, to her surprise, contained a check for twenty thousand dollars. After being accused of thievery and drug use, Lucy is fired from her job and with no other option moves in with her sister Alice. The next day, when Lucy takes the bus to the unemployment office, she gets hit by a bus and flattened into a pancake.
When Lucy wakes up she finds herself in a dormitory style building, in ghost school. She is one of many SDs, Surprise Demisers, who are going to be sent on assignment in their afterlife so that they can accomplish what they never did in life. Under the tutelage of Ruby Spicer, Lucy and the other SDs, learn the basics of haunting so they can go back and fulfill their objectives so that they can move onto “The State.” A heaven that will give them everything they desire but maintains a certain standard for who they let through their velvet ropes. However, it is also made very clear to the Ghosts that if they terrify their subjects enough to involve the work of mediums and psychics, they will be pulled into The White Light, which turns them into a speck of the space dust in Saturn’s rings. To avoid this unsavory fate, Lucy must be subtle when fulfilling her objective in order to avoid staying on the earthly plane for all eternity or orbiting Saturn with the other tortured ghosts.
Laurie Notaro is very gifted in humor, a genre that is hard to handle. From the beginning Notaro grabs the reader with jabs about credit card interest and reality show stereotypes while keeping the book fresh and exciting with a certain brand of dark humor that sustains its charm. Notaro is able to create characters that endear us all, from Lucy the slighted ghost to Nola the vindictive office girl, the humor and tone of this book transcends the depressing subject matter of death.
Though the first few pages of this book may appear to be just a humorous story read for a few giggles, the story progresses to have an interesting and intricate plot that involves an interesting cast of characters and situations. However, in the final analysis, the plots all come together into a delicious and fulfilling plot. At the end of this book I found myself wanting the story of the other SDs and what they had in their time on Earth. Yet, the plot was still fulfilling and even if Notaro never dips into this cast of characters again, Spooky Little Girl is worth a read with its refreshing tone and cheeky banter.
Final Grade: B-